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Miller and company lead Sixers to third straight win

Jan 10, 2009 - 4:56 AM PHILADELPHIA (Ticker) -- Just when Elton Brand seems primed to return within two weeks, the Philadelphia 76ers seem to have figured out how to survive without him.

The burgeoning trio of Andre Miller, Andre Iguodala and Thaddeus Young carried the Sixers to their third straight win Friday night, combining for 49 points and the bulk of the big plays in a 93-87 triumph over the Charlotte Bobcats.

Brand, the team's high-priced offseason acquisition, has been out with a separated shoulder since mid-December but is expected to return soon.

Without him, however, the Sixers' offense has finally started to get things going after a season of inconsistency.

"The ball has bounced our way for the past few games," Miller said. "We've picked up our defense, the bench is forming and the young guys are getting better. We just need to stay consistent for four quarters. Even if the offense isn't going well we have to keep our heads up."

Coming into the night, Philadelphia had reached the 100-point mark in three consecutive games. While falling short of reaching the mark this time, the Sixers recovered from a sluggish first half to take control in the third quarter.

"It was a tale of two halves," Philadelphia interim coach Tony DiLeo said. "Charlotte got into their rhythm and played their type of game in the first half. The third quarter was much better for us. We got the ball and we ran a little more."

Down by five early in the period, they staged a 14-2 run to open up a 61-54 advantage. Iguodala - who has been coming on strong as of late - asserted himself inside, drew contact and buried two free throws to spark the run, then kicked out to Willie Green for an open 19-footer one possession later.

After Miller's jumper put Philadelphia on top, Iguodala found Young slashing to the basket and the second-year forward completed a three-point play.

"Andre Iguodala has really been a good team leader," DiLeo said. "He's been here the longest and he's kind of taken ownership of the team and he's really tried to step up as a leader and he's done a good job. Andre Miller is the orchestrator in the court. He knows when to push the ball, he knows when to pull it out. Those two are invaluable for us."

Miller capped the surge with a layup that forced Charlotte head coach Larry Brown to call a timeout in hopes of settling the Bobcats down.

But the damage was already done. Young added three big buckets, including a thunderous dunk to push the lead to 71-61, and Miller closed the quarter with a 3-pointer - just his 10th all season.

"(We've been) getting good starts, staying solid on defense, and closing our games," Iguodala said. "The other night we did okay closing the game, but we need to do a better job of getting baskets down the stretch."

Miller had his third big performance in his last four games, hitting 9-of-12 from the field and finishing with 22 points and six assists.

Over his last four contests, he is averaging 21.8 points while shooting 67 percent (31-of-46) from the field.

"I try to stay aggressive," Miller said. "We want to hit teams before they hit his. That's what I am thinking before the game starts. We want to keep the tempo going. I don't have to score the ball be aggressive. I am trying to stay active and open up the game by pushing the ball."

The Bobcats pulled as close as six points midway through the final session, as Gerald Wallace knocked down buckets on consecutive possessions to cut the deficit to 81-75. But Reggie Evans answered with a short jumper and a pair of free throws and the Sixers held on.

"It's very disappointing," Charlotte guard Matt Carroll said. "We felt pretty good about the first half and had a good chance to win this game. If we didn't let it slip away in the second half, this would've been a big win for us."

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